Craig Follins Fights Firing

Ex-college president fighting termination

San Antonio Express-News (TX) – November 17, 2015

The former president of Northeast Lakeview College said Monday that he is challenging Alamo Colleges Chancellor Bruce Leslie’s decision to terminate his contract.

An Oct. 29 memorandum from Leslie to Craig Follins, obtained by the Express-News under the Public Information Act, informed Follins that his contract with the community college district would be terminated effective Dec. 21.

“You have again violated expectations set for you and engaged in a pattern of unacceptable behavior,” Leslie wrote.

On Sept. 1, Leslie had renewed Follins’ contract for two years.

In the Oct. 29 memo, however, Leslie immediately removed Follins from his role as college president and reassigned him at his same annual salary of about $205,000 as a “special project administrator” analyzing opportunities for distance learning and possibly a new bond issue. Leslie wrote that he would support an extension of the special assignment past December but that district officials were willing to discuss any separation options Follins wanted to propose.

A request for comment from Leslie was forwarded to Roxella Cavazos, attorney for the Alamo Colleges, who declined an interview through district spokesman Leo Zuniga.

Follins, who has been on administrative leave since the memo was issued, said he would be meeting with district officials this week to discuss his options, which include a possible hearing.

Follins said concerns were raised over his management style, but he denied any wrongdoing.

“My style was very deliberate,” Follins said. “There was pushback and people were saying that the style wasn’t what they expected.

“Rather than come to me, I think they decided to go around me and make allegations.”

Follins said Leslie recruited him to the Alamo Colleges two years ago, when he was president of Olive-Harvey College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago. Follins said he was told to prioritize the accreditation of Northeast Lakeview, which has not received independent accreditation since it opened in 2007.

Under Follins, the college submitted an application in April for accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. A three-day candidacy site visit has been scheduled beginning Feb. 22, said Pamela Cravey, spokeswoman for the Georgia-based accreditation agency.

Follins said he went on a retreat with staff and an external executive coach weeks before he was removed from the Northeast Lakeview presidency.

“My sense was that things were moving in a very very positive direction, so I was taken completely by surprise,” he said. “We had greater community involvement. We had more student success. We achieved the goal of the visit with SACSCOC, so everything I was asked to do was moved forward.”

Thomas Cleary, former assistant vice chancellor for planning, performance and information systems, is serving as Northeast Lakeview’s interim president. Leslie has said the district will focus on searching for a new president after February’s accreditation visit.

Faculty at Northeast Lakeview were not given an explanation of the reasons behind Follins’ removal, said Dianna Torres-Lee, president of the faculty senate and a math instructor.

“He was trying to help us move forward as we prepared for our site visit, but if district decided to make a change, that was district’s decision to make,” Torres-Lee said.

Decision-making model gets full PR treatment

Wow. Our 3 choices for a decision-making model get the full PR treatment from District. Leslie is sparing no expense! A youtube video was embedded in the survey recently sent out to ALL-FACULTY:

Dear Colleagues:

We value your input. Please take time to click on the link below and fill out the survey on proposals for a cross-college design-making model. Your participation in decisions affecting programs and services across the colleges is integral to the Alamo Colleges’ ability to effectively achieve success for all students.

Thank you,

Alamo Colleges Design Team

Craig Follins is still employed…at District

Oh boy. Now we really wonder what is going on. Is he still being paid his President’s salary?!?

More on Craig Follins from the San Antonio Express-News:

Follins out as Northeast Lakeview president

November 2, 2015

Craig Follins has left his position as president of Northeast Lakeview College and taken on a new role completing special projects for Alamo Colleges Chancellor Bruce Leslie, administrators said Monday.

In a memo to all Alamo Colleges employees, Leslie wrote of Follins’ departure but did not mention his new role with the community college district. Alamo Colleges spokesman Leo Zuniga declined to say whether Follins’ change in positions was voluntary, calling it a “personnel matter.” The district did not say Monday whether Follins’ salary was being adjusted.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to engage the district in new ways,” Follins said, declining to comment further on the circumstances of his reassignment.

Follins’ new projects include an analysis of the Alamo Colleges’ distance education program, Zuniga said.

Thomas Cleary, formerly the district’s associate vice chancellor for planning, performance and information systems, will serve as Northeast Lakeview’s interim president. Cleary was interim president of the college for about two months in 2014, until Follins was hired.

Follins was president of Olive-Harvey College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago, before he was appointed in March 2014 to lead Northeast Lakeview. He also had worked for the Houston Community College system, Victoria College and Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio.

Northeast Lakeview enrolled about 3,800 students this semester. It was an extension of St. Philip’s College until 2007, when it became its own institution. The following year, it moved into its current Universal City campus.

The college is not independently accredited, and the push for accreditation defined Follins’ short time as president. The month Follins began his term, the college submitted an application for accreditation to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, but the accrediting body asked for additional information. The college resubmitted its application about a year later.

An accreditation visit has been scheduled for February, and the district will focus on selecting a new president after that, according to Leslie’s memo.

“While it may be unsettling to lose a key member of the team as we take the final steps to accreditation, I want to assure you the college will have the excellent leadership required to achieve a successful accreditation outcome,” Leslie wrote. “My hope is to have a new President on board no later than August 2016. Until then, I have every confidence in the commitment and competence of the excellent Northeast Lakeview College faculty, staff and administrators to keep moving forward.”

A theme is shaping up here and it smells like suppression

Our third post of the night where suppression is the theme. This one is slightly old news but very important. Let’s begin…*deep breath*

Instead of adhering to the “shared governance” structure already in place at the colleges, Chancellor Bruce Leslie has spent both time and taxpayer money creating a “decision-making model.” Sigh. Bruce just can’t help himself! He has to remake everything in his own image. Bruce allegedly told Trustees that the consultant friend of his who was hired to moderate this retreat would not be receiving any sort of payment. Guess what? He was paid $3,500 a day plus expenses and any additional days after the retreat will have a fee of $2,500 along with expenses, according to an article in The Ranger. Nice work if you can get it.

Our question is…WHY ARE WE PAYING BRUCE LESLIE A TREMENDOUS SALARY if his leadership skills are so lacking that he has to drag us all into what amounts to marriage counseling? A scorpion is a scorpion. He’s already been run out of two other college environments prior to his tempestuous tenure at the Alamo Colleges. If anyone thinks Bruce is going to change and suddenly be all Mr. Participatory Governance, then they are sadly mistaken and dangerously naïve.

We received permission to reprint this from our colleagues at PAC AAUP.


PAC AAUP and friends of PAC AAUP:

Please read the following. I received it from an anonymous source. It’s very disturbing to see how District administrators are further eroding trust by carefully manipulating what was intended to be an “inter-faculty dialogue designed to build trust.” The observations made by the author clearly show that it was a faculty retreat in name only (possibly to feign participatory leadership). False inclusivity has been the norm at the Alamo Colleges. Authentic faculty input has been suppressed systematically. When faculty is not allowed to ask the hard questions or to participate wholly, the Board of Directors risk making poorly informed decisions. How can the “success stories” reported by District be verified if those who are entrusted to preserve academic integrity (faculty) are systematically kept from asking the hard questions. Who will provide the Board of Directors the alternate perspective that can authenticate District’s portrayal of “success” and hold them accountable?

This is not the way to run a public institution. At stake is the rapid erosion of public trust in our community college system. Taxpayers and our students deserve better.

What follows is an eye-opening account of a deliberate attempt to impede voices of key stakeholders in an institution of higher education – the Faculty. To be sure, some of the most vocal faculty – representatives of the AAUP chapters – were excluded from this event (as noted below).

Tony Villanueva

The all-day Faculty Retreat was held on Oct 2nd, 2015:

When Faculty Super Senate President Lisa Black asked the faculty at Friday’s “faculty” retreat to stand, she hoped to make the point for those in the audience that the vast majority of those present were faculty.  When only about half in the room stood, it spoke volumes about the contradictions in this purportedly inter-faculty dialogue that was designed to, among other things, build trust.

This trust was undermined by the active participation of dozens of board members and administrators in the event’s key feedback gathering activity.  At least three vice chancellors, at least seven board members, all five college presidents, and various other deans, directors and vice presidents were actively engaged, like helicopter parents, in the speed-dating style two-minute participant interviews focused on six pre-determined questions designed to inform a design team while they develop a prototype for cross-college decision-making.

In the seven-hour retreat to publicly inaugurate the process, Chancellor Bruce Leslie stated that he was taking a hand’s off role in the initiative—although his remarks dominated the opening and closing of the retreat.  He began with, “My greatest fear is I won’t be able to save your jobs.”  Some construed this sentiment as a thinly veiled threat.  His statement also rang with hypocrisy as a staff representative originally appointed by one of the colleges had to be replaced because she lost her job due to District consolidation of the colleges’ continuing education departments in the weeks leading up to the retreat.

Wrapping up a final round of questions before beginning the feedback collection process, Trustee James Rindfuss continued the paternalistic tone set by the Chancellor when he worked into his “question” the unequivocal statement that, “Faculty are out of touch.”

The presence of so many administrators and board members eroded the authenticity and trust building the event aspired to.  The college presidents appointed the initial retreat attendees, and then were invited themselves as if to keep an eye on their minions.  The “anonymous” feedback process was made very public as one-on-one interviews were set up in parallel rows of a dozen or so seats placed right next to one another.  Nearly every “interview” was within earshot of an administrator or board member.

Although administrators and board members were intimately engaged in the process, representatives of the colleges’ American Association of University Professors chapters were excluded from the process.  The decision to exclude AAUP representatives became questionable in light of the morning presentation from Valencia College, a team handpicked by the Chancellor.  Valencia’s presentation included a lengthy explanation for why it is important to engage critical and divergent voices as early as possible in any major decision making process.

The tentacles of administrative usurpation of the process were exemplified many ways Friday, as during a roundtable event in which groups of ten or so participants identified “truths,” “trends,” and “unique ideas” among the responses to the six questions asked during the one-on-one interviews.  The role of official “recorder” of responses in one group was assumed by Jo-Carol Fabianke, Vice Chancellor of Academics and e-book/EDUC 1300 champion.  Another group’s recorder, and effective filter of feedback, was Trustee Yvonne “fire the old farts” Katz.

Ironically, in the group filtering the question, “What would it take for you to have trust in this decision making model?”  Vice Chancellor of Finance Diane Snyder questioned the validity of a faculty member’s report out, and shot down a proposed “unique idea” supported by at least two faculty in the group.  The idea that never made it to the floor due to Synder’s insistence was “participatory budgeting.”  Interestingly, another group filtering a totally unrelated question identified faculty involvement in budgeting as an important “trend.”

The design team tasked with planning the event is now challenged with making sense of comments which were supposed to be from primarily faculty, but which were instead from administrators, board members, and faculty who were forced to self censor their comments because of the proximity of the people who sign their paychecks.

Although the formal feedback gathered Friday is of questionable value, the real takeaway was from Valencia College, who provided the retreat participants with a narrative of their decision making development process.  This is a process that includes, among other things, an autonomous faculty council with veto power over any major decisions within the scope of faculty responsibility.  Additionally, the second of the three councils with veto power at Valencia has a faculty co-chair.

Valencia also described how the equivalent of their Super Senate president sits on their equivalent of the Alamo Colleges PVC executive council.  Furthermore, they explained how faculty are able to comment on every policy proposal that goes to the Board.  Unlike Alamo Colleges, Valencia is a singly accredited college with about a half dozen campuses.

The cross-college faculty decision-making model design team’s next task is to process the feedback from Friday and develop a prototype to present to the faculty at each college during Employee Development Day on Wednesday, October 28.

This is one EDD faculty won’t want to miss.  On this day, faculty have a chance to correct the errant course the cross-college decision making process is on and pressure their representatives on the design team to ensure that the process actually adheres to what predictably percolated up from Friday’s feedback:  The need for more trust, transparency, and true shared governance.

Right now: Board discusses limits to Citizens to be Heard

Chancellor Bruce Leslie and (some of) the Trustees want to severely limit what people can say and how long they can say it at Citizens to be Heard. To be publicly elected representatives those Trustees have gotten pretty sensitive about hearing from their constituents. If they can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen. Better yet, who’s in favor of introducing TERM LIMITS for Board members?

Here’s the article from The Ranger:

Proposals limit student, employee access to trustees

Committees to consider clarifications for board policies Tuesday.

By Cynthia M. Herrera

Policies restricting citizens-to-be-heard will be reconsidered at 8 p.m. Tuesday during the Policy and Long-Range Planning Committee meeting in Killen Center.

The restrictions were on the agenda for the Sept. 8 committee meeting, but Denver McClendon, District 2 trustee and committee chair; District 1 trustee Joe Alderete; District 9 trustee James Rindfuss; and student trustee Sami Adames decided to table the proposed policy revisions for further clarification.

The agenda and proposed policy changes are available at

For Policy B.8.1, Board and Standing Committee Meetings, the section for public participation has changes proposed for the citizens-to-be-heard portion of meetings.

In the proposed revisions, there would be no more than an hour assigned for citizens-to-be-heard except when a majority of the board votes to expand or restrict a person’s time limit.

A person who speaks during this portion of the meeting would be heard unless the board chairperson decides differently depending on the subject matter.

A person would not be allowed to speak more than once per meeting during citizens-to-be-heard.

Ross Laughead, general counsel, was not sure if this applied to individuals representing a group.

“It’s basically so that one person can’t totally take over the citizens-to-be-heard at the expense of everybody else,” he said.

“The board has a certain amount of time before everyone gets tired and wants to go home,” Laughead said. “The board wants to make itself available so that citizens can be heard, but the board needs some means of effectively handing that and so they’re thinking over what might need some adjustments to the current Policy B.8.1.”

In other proposed revisions, if a speaker starts a personal, verbal attack on a person, including board members or employees of the district, the board chairperson would give a warning to the person. If the person continues, the chairperson could revoke the right to speak, remove the person or both.

If the chairman does neither, any board member could ask for enforcement.

In addition, the chairman would not allow employees or student complaints during citizens-to-be-heard unless the speaker has gone through administrative solutions, which is stated in the revision of Policy B. 8.1.1, Administrative Remedies Before Resorting to Citizens-to-be-heard.

Within Policy B. 8.1.1, Procedure D. 3.3, Employee Complaints, is referred to within the policy, which was adopted by the board April 2009 with the last amendment in January 2010.

President Robert Vela said the policy refers to that procedure because it gives a chance for administrators to respond and attempts to mend issues rather than hearing issues for the first time during board meetings.

“We have opportunities through Senate or Staff Council or the Student Government Association to bring up issues that are related to the college so that we can try to remedy those or fix them … that’s the traditional kind of body that’s authorized to bring these issues forward to administration and address those concerns,” Vela said. “It’s not a requirement, but it’s difficult for us to address issues when we first hear about them at the board. Bring it to our attention, to your supervisor or the college executive team’s attention so we can try to do what we can with it.”

Kelley Shannon, executive director of Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, said employees and students are citizens and should be treated equally as those citizens not directly involved with the college.

“Students and faculty are taxpayers and their money helps to support the college so they should not be shut off from being able to speak out on important issues. The rules need to be fair and the same for everyone,” Shannon said. “Everyone needs to remember that openness is so important in our government and all levels of government, and citizen access is key to our democracy functioning.”

If board members should seek the person who spoke for input, the chairperson must consult with the chancellor and can schedule a brief special board meeting just before a regular board meeting.

Laughhead said a problem with citizens-to-be-heard is that the board cannot address the speakers unless it’s on the agenda.

“One of the problems with citizens-to-be-heard is people come and they talk to the board, but unless the item is on the agenda, the board is prohibited by the Open Meetings Act from saying anything, which is frustrating for everyone,” Laughead said. “They’re just trying to figure out a way to make citizens-to-be-heard so that it works out for everybody.”

The board can’t comment during citizens-to-be-heard because of the Texas Open Meetings Act, Texas Government Code Chapter 551, Section 551.042, which has been in effect since September 1993.

The only clarifications for Policy B.3.3 Board of Trustees Ethics, is for Item 4.

The proposal would change the policy from “welcoming and encouraging active communication with students, the public and media … for current and future college operations,” to stating the board should “provide access points,” for the public all while “maintaining the integrity of the board governance guidelines.”

Access points are ways for the public to make their views known to the trustees, Laughead said.

The Board Officer’s Policy, B.4.1, gives an overview of performing duties and functions required by law such as the chairman would not be allowed to have a vote on board committees and is not to be counted or substituted to establish a quorum.

Should the board chairperson be unavailable, the vice chairman would serve as a temporary chairman.

If the chairman decides to resign from the position, the board would elect a permanent replacement for the remainder of the term.

The policy clarifies a vice chairperson is not an interim.

The board liaison would serve as deputy secretary and assist the secretary and assistant secretary.

In Policy B. 5.2, Board Member Authority, the section for individual access to information reflects additions such as board members should not conduct independent investigations, hearings, listening sessions or fact-gathering from employees.

If any trustee should visit one of the Alamo Colleges, the trustee should notify the president in advance, and if a trustee wants to visit district support operations, the trustee should advise the appropriate vice chancellor.

For complaints about the chancellor, a board member should refer the complainant to the district’s internal auditor or counsel.

Standing committee meetings begin at 6 p.m. in Killen Center.

Language matters

Oh ho ho! Look at the language Chancellor Bruce Leslie and (some of) the Trustees want to remove from this policy. Guess the old language sounded too…what? Inclusive? Open? Friendly? Dangerous?

B.3.3 (Policy) Board of Trustees Ethics Responsible Department: Office of the Chancellor, Legal Services Board Adoption: 8-18-09 Last Board Action: 8-13-139-15-15

As a Board member, I will strive toward the ideal of effective board service in a spirit of teamwork and commitment to the ideal that community college education is the greatest instrument for the preservation and the perpetuation of our representative democracy and will strive to:
1. Work with fellow Board members in a spirit of harmony and cooperation in spite of differences of opinion that arise during vigorous debates.
2. Bring about desired changes through legal and ethical procedures, upholding and enforcing all applicable statutes, regulations, and court decisions pertaining to community colleges.
3. Work with other Board members to establish effective policies and practices prohibiting unlawful discrimination, including conduct that constitutes sexual harassment.
4. Communicate with the public and provide access points for constituent voices to be heard, while maintaining the integrity of the Board’s governance guidelines.Welcome and encourage active communication with students, citizens, organizations, and the media with respect to establishing policy on current and future college operations.
5. Base my personal decisions on all available facts in a situation; vote my honest conviction in every case, unswayed by partisan bias of any kind; and abide by the final decision of the Board.
6. Delegate authority to the Chancellor as the College District’s chief executive officer and confine Board and Trustees’ action to policy determination, planning, evaluation of the Chancellor, and maintaining the fiscal stability of the College District.
7. Recognize that it is as important for the Board to understand and plan for the educational mission of the community college as it is to understand and plan for the College District’s business operations.
8. Devote time, thought, and study to the duties and responsibilities of a community college Trustee so that I may render more effective and credible service.
9. Remember at all times that, as an individual, I have no legal authority outside the meetings of the Board.
10. Resist every temptation and outside pressure to use my position as a community college Trustee to benefit either myself or any other individual or agency at the expense of the total interest of the College District.
11. Respect the influence of my authority as a Trustee and to communicate appropriately with all internal and external constituents.